Prednisone

Prednisone is a corticosteroid. It helps the immune system to reduce swelling, redness, itching, and other allergic reactions.1-4 Prednisone is indicated to treat asthma attacks by blocking the action of substances in the body that cause swelling and tightening in the airways.1-3

Prednisone comes in multiple forms, including tablets, liquid, and oral solution.1-4 When taken by mouth, it is systemic. This means it is absorbed by the body (unlike nasal inhalers). Steroids are used along with other medications to control sudden and severe asthma attacks or to treat long-term, hard-to-control asthma.1

Prednisone is manufactured and distributed by multiple drug makers in the US.1,2

How does prednisone work for asthma?

Prednisone is an anti-inflammatory. It suppresses the immune system.1-4 Prednisone works by acting like cortisol (hydrocortisone), a natural corticosteroid made by the body in the adrenal glands.4 It is used as both a short-term and long-term treatment depending on the dose.1,2

Prednisone helps to relieve the effects of an asthma attack and helps prevent further asthma symptoms from developing.1-4 These include wheezing, coughing, tightness in the chest, and shortness of breath.2

What is the active ingredient in prednisone?

Prednisone is a generic drug. The active ingredient is prednisone.1-3

What are some of the possible side effects of prednisone?

The most common side effects of prednisone include:1-4

  • Headache, irritability, and agitation
  • Increased risk of infections
  • Increased appetite and weight gain
  • Fever, chills, or sore throat
  • Sleep problems

Prednisone can cause rare but serious side effects, including:1-4

  • Slower growth in children
  • Bone density issues
  • Liver, kidney, or heart problems
  • Blurry vision or dizziness
  • Fast, irregular, or pounding heartbeat
  • Increased thirst or urination
  • Irritability, unusual tiredness, or weakness
  • Changes in mood or behavior including insomnia and depression

Your doctor may measure blood pressure levels and order blood and urine tests to check for side effects while you are taking prednisone.1,2

These are not all the possible side effects of prednisone. Patients should talk to their doctor about what to expect with treatment.

Things to know about prednisone for asthma

Before starting prednisone, you should talk to your doctor about all drugs (prescription and over the counter), supplements, and vitamins you are taking. Some drugs or supplements may interfere with each other. This means both drugs may work less well, or you may have serious side effects.1,2

Prednisone may interact with dozens of drugs including antibiotics, antifungals, blood thinners, pain relievers, seizure medications and HIV drugs. This is not a complete list so be sure to tell your doctor about everything you take.1,2 Dose adjustments may be required when prednisone is prescribed to avoid drug interactions or increased side effects.

Discuss prednisone with your doctor

Your doctor can advise you on how to safely take any needed drugs and any instructions regarding food, alcohol and tobacco use.1 Your doctor may suggest a low-salt, high potassium, or high calcium diet.3

Do not get immunizations without your doctor's approval, especially live vaccines including measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), rotavirus, yellow fever, chickenpox, and some types of flu and typhoid vaccines.1,2

Before starting treatment with prednisone, discuss all of your health conditions with your doctor, especially:1-4

  • Hypersensitivity to prednisone
  • Other types of allergies including foods, dyes, preservatives, or animals
  • Eye conditions including cataracts, glaucoma, or infections
  • Heart conditions including high blood pressure and congestive heart failure
  • Diabetes or high blood sugar
  • Active bacterial, viral, and fungal infections
  • Stomach or intestinal problems including ulcers, diverticulitis, or colitis
  • History of tuberculosis, malaria, osteoporosis, thyroid or muscle disorders

Prednisone is indicated for adults and children.1-3 Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become while using prednisone. Effective birth control to prevent pregnancy should be practiced while using prednisone. It should be used while breastfeeding only if the potential benefit justifies any potential risks to the baby.1

Be sure to talk to your doctor if you have any questions about your medication regimen.1,2

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Last reviewed: September 2020.